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The Backpack Itself
This trip I’ll be carrying a Lowepro Photo Hatchback and honestly it’s overkill for most guests. Personally, I chose this backpack because it serves two functions. First, It’s a camera bag that allows me to carry on my DSLR and my MacBook (with a little bit of space saving manipulation) as a personal item on most airlines. Additionally, it has a nice compartment for extra batteries, snacks, or anything else I may need throughout the day (which you’ll find listed below in detail) or during my flight to Orlando. The bag itself is particularly nice for Disney because it is reasonably waterproof on it’s own but also offers an integrated water cover in the case of a sudden downpour, which isn’t entirely uncommon in Florida.
Truthfully, this will be unnecessary unless you’re a big “techy” or if you’re going to be carrying a DSLR camera into the parks for family pictures. For me, it’s ideal and allows me to carry all of my gear on a plane while allowing me to remove a few things (like the MacBook) for park days as well. You can even entirely remove the camera compartment and turn it into a regular, high quality backpack which is another bonus in my book. However, if you’re a typical park guest, I highly recommend a draw string Under Armour bag or full size backpack depending on your needs. I’ve had excellent luck with their bags and they hold up quite well even in the most difficult conditions. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that lesson the hard way quite a few times walking across a college campus in pouring rain… it happens (lol).
Snacks are a big part of what is in our park bag and one of the more necessary items. When we’re not on the dining plan, and even occasionally when we are, we take small snacks with us into the park. Typically, these can range from snack crackers to granola bars, but whatever you can find and enjoy eating that isn’t effected by heat is a great option. Snacks are even better when they are resealable, and/or single serving items. If you are on the dining plan, contrary to what I shared in our 5 Disney Dining Plan Mistakes You Want To Avoid And Why in a rare exception, I recommend picking up one Chip and Dale Snack Company bag of “mountain mix” before you head to the parks for the week. The snack item is resealable, fairly well suited for the hot climate, and quite tasty. It’s a great item to have while you’re waiting in a queue line or waiting for the start of a parade or show. Truth be told, it doesn’t have to be the Chip and Dale kind of trail mix, but if you’re on the dining plan it’s a pretty decent use of one snack credit and one less thing to carry from home.
As another rather strange item on my list, especially considering I travel 99% of the time with adults 21 or older, wet wipes tend to be one of the necessities of our park bag. I’m a bit partial to the “Wet Ones” brand of wipes simply because they’re good at taking out stains, they’re typically packaged in the slim cushion packs, and you wont smell like a 3 year old after using them. You never know when you’ll spill something on you at a meal, step in something sticky, or even have something spilled on you during a day in the parks. Wet wipes can be a metaphorical life saver in a variety of unexpected situations and have easily earned a place in at least one of the bags of our group as we head to the parks.
A Good Pair of Sunglasses
Sunglasses are essential for Florida travel as a whole and I’m incredibly sensitive to bright light and have been since I was a young child so I’m openly bias towards nice sunglasses. Additionally, I say a “good” pair of sunglasses for a few reasons. Cheap sunglasses break, are easily scratched, and have a variety of other downfalls, but perhaps most importantly, your vision is one of the most significant things you can protect. Aggressive Florida sunlight can take a toll on your eyes and slowly but surely create headaches or unpleasant days in the parks. As a result, I’m incredibly partial to Oakley sunglasses (which I won’t link up because I don’t want this to look like a money grab post). They’re incredibly durable, provide plenty of protection from direct sunlight, and are comfortable for all day use at Walt Disney World. Another top pick is the Maui Jim line up because they simply offer a very high quality lens, but they do lack a certain level of durability you’ll need as you take them off and put them back on as you enter and exit certain attractions.
Sunglasses are easy to accidentally forget, but completely necessary in my opinion, and could save you a mid afternoon headache in the long run.
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My MacBook Pro (not necessary for all)
I’m a hard core Apple user and not at all ashamed to admit it. I take my MacBook Pro almost everywhere I go on a daily basis. It’s how I post these articles, it’s the main way I get to interact with many of you, and it allows me to edit photos and develop projects on the go. Obviously, I will rarely carry a MacBook through the parks, because it’s just not necessary. In the parks I use my iPhone 7 for communication and social media interaction with readers, using the parks app, and other small scale tasks. It’s not ideal but it certainly works just fine. When I get back to the room I’ll do my upload for the day or share some photos from my camera after they’re edited, but inevitably the MacBook will be accompanying me on the plane as I travel south. It’s a great way to pass some time, but also a good way to avoid it getting broken or crushed in check baggage.
I’m partial to MacBooks for a few reasons. First, I had a MacBook Pro from the Mid 2012 Model year up until about two weeks ago when I upgraded to a Late 2017 MacBook Pro to save some weight and increase processing capabilities. It was a rock solid device with a proven track record. Second, I find them more travel friendly, but that’s simply my opinion.
DSLR Camera (not necessary for most)
A Nikon DSLR will be a new addition to my park bag this year, and resulted in the purchase of the new Lowepro backpack mentioned above. Truthfully, with the level of quality images you can get out of a smart phone these days, chances are you wont need a DSLR for excellent quality images during your trip. However, for me, as a minor player in the realm of content creation, I try to create the best images I possibly can and this should be a step in the right direction to improve the quality of our images here on the site. With that being said, all the images you’ve seen on the site to date that were taken by me have come from an iPhone 7 so far (As of late February 2018). Hopefully, that goes to show that your phone is more that capable to take excellent images, but a DSLR could be a fun option for you if you’re a “techy” person or looking to learn a new hobby. My camera of choice right now is a Nikon D3400. You can pick them up for a fairly reasonable price and it is my top pick for a well rounded budget friendly DSLR option. It’s what I use and will be using for the foreseeable future.
In addition to the camera itself, I’ll likely be carrying a fairly tall tripod for fireworks photos, a shutter release, extra batteries, and a few extra memory cards. I’m no where near a photography expert, but we’ll see how well I can apply some techniques in the theme parks on our upcoming trip.
Leave the Frozen Waters!
This isn’t particularly a tip of something to take with you but rather something to leave behind when you’re headed to the parks. I know it’s something many guests do and they all have their reasons, but for me it’s just not necessary to trek around with frozen water bottles in your backpack. If you really want to carry a water bottle, throw a couple in the side pockets of your bag, but for me it’s much easier to stop and pick up a cup of ice water at a counter service location free of charge and toss a packet of lemonade flavoring in it to cover the Florida water taste. Your back will thatk you at the end of the day, and it’s one less thing to keep up with getting on and off of attractions.
Chargers For Everything
In the technology driven world we live in today, it’s near impossible to make it through a day in the parks without a mobile device of some type. It’s doable if you absolutely have to, but certainly not ideal. Unfortunately, poor cellular and wifi connections in the theme parks can lead to batteries draining incredibly quickly on various devices. A good way to combat this is to invest in a budget friendly power bank for your devices. The Mophie branded chargers have never let me down. They have integrated power cases available for select phone models, but also offer power stations that only require a usb charging cable to charge or recharge your device quickly and away from a “wall-style” plug. This is the exact Mophie charger my sister (who runs our Instagram page) just ordered for our trip: Mophie Powerstation.
Another “hidden gem” in the realm of on-the-go chargers for some guests is the FuelRod offering at the Disney parks. It’s a unique service that allows you to pick up and drop off mobile phone charging blocks at certain locations across property in each of the parks. I find them overpriced at $30 but if you really need something it’s a good last minute option but still costs about what it would cost to buy the Mophie above which has about 6 times the charging power for $6 less!
Cheap Rain Gear
Cheap and disposable rain gear is a must for any Disney trip but especially summer trips where it’s bound to rain at some point during the day. If you know the rain is coming, pull your nice jacket out of your luggage and wear it to the parks, but nothing beats a cheap poncho for the sudden unexpected burst of rain or as a way to stay relatively dry on water-based attractions. Most budget friendly ponchos are in little individual packages and take up very little room in your park bag, and can be bought cheap at your local dollar store or on Amazon in bulk packs. I know these seem a bit ridiculous and you may look a bit ridiculous wearing them, but it’s an outstanding compromise instead of buying the outrageously expensive Disney ponchos sold in the parks.
With that being said, some guests collect theme park ponchos, and that’s completely okay, but I’m certainly not one of those people. I still don’t entirely understand that collection (lol), but to each their own.
As you may have noticed, I avoided all references to clothing in this post and for one specific reason. Your travel dates and personal preferences should dictate what you wear to the parks and why. Also, this is far from a comprehensive list. Our park and travel bag changes from time to time and these are really just what almost always travels with at least one member of our vacation party throughout the trip. Also, this isn’t a list of stuff that should be in your luggage but rather a backpack or something of the sort. If you’re looking into things to put in your luggage, my top pick for that would be an extra pair of shoes (is I had to pick jus tone thing). You never know when it will rain in Florida and nobody likes soggy shoes. I’ve been in that situation far too many times and it’s easily avoidable with an extra pair of shoes tucked away in your luggage at your resort.
There were also a lot of honorable mentions on our list as well which I’ll run through here briefly:
- Sunscreen (which I should wear but rarely do)
- Comfortable Shoes
- Advil (for those late week aches and pains)
- Light Up Toys (if you have kids or if you’re a kid at heart)
- Extra cash (in case cards get lost or stolen)
Truth be told, I over-pack my park backpack, but I’m also the first person to give up entirely on the backpack idea altogether and head to an afternoon in the parks with nothing but an iPhone, a wallet, and a magic band. It all depends on the situation and that’s the biggest takeaway I hope I share with you in this article. Use your situation to decide what you pack. I’m not a typical Disney guest, but hopefully these ideas may have sparked an idea of your own.
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What Do You Take?
So, you’ve seen our list, so what are we missing? You may have that perfect item that we’ve been missing for years that many guests would appreciate and learn from so be sure to reach out to us and share your tips with us as well and this Guide4WDW Community! Thanks for reading, and have a great rest of the day! Happy planning!